Best I can tell, true crime hasn’t lost its status as pop culture’s genre du jour, so let me tell you a story of something truly criminal. It takes place in the workplace, and its called “The Sheet” (at least, that’s what I would call it if it were a hit podcast or limited-series documentary).
It goes like this:
In 2015, I was working at a growing creative agency. Our clients ranged from companies you haven’t heard of to some you probably have. At the time, we served these clients mostly on a project-by-project basis, with a few regulars on retainer. Given our resource capacity, we booked an average of 15 – 20 projects per week.
In theory, things should have run pretty smoothly. The reality involved a lot more cursing and long hours.
Why was that? If you’re ready for the big reveal, I won’t keep you waiting.
It’s because we kept track of everything in a Google sheet.
A ghastly crime, no?
Any time a project was delayed for any reason, we had to manually update the entirety of our project queue. Errors could result in under- or overbooked creatives, putting stress on our team and the company’s wellbeing. Designers demanded to know why they were assigned more work than they could conceivably do, and those of us in the project management pod didn’t have much choice but to apologize, take a deep breath and dive back into the matrix.
Thankfully, this is the rare true-crime story with a happy ending.
Fast forward a year and many of these frictions had been worn smooth. Everybody was getting along better, and the company’s numbers were trending way up. What made the difference? It certainly wasn’t that clients stopped delaying projects (it’s their favorite thing to do, after all). No, it was the introduction of a proper project management software, complete with resource allocation and scheduling functions.
Leadership had seen our struggles and responded with exactly the right tool. As a result the company quickly blossomed, and our team — always close — finally gelled in a professional capacity.
From scary stats (“companies lose 20 to 30 percent in revenue every year due to inefficiencies”) to well-branded solutions (hello, lean manufacturing), we hear a lot about the importance of efficiency from a money standpoint. However, its value as a culture booster often goes overlooked.
What “The Sheet” taught me is that the right process or platform can bring people together in a way that generates revenue and good will. Think of it this way: A finely tuned engine will net you better gas mileage, but it also makes for a smoother ride.
Let’s look at a few key ways that process efficiency can improve your company’s culture.
Analytics help you make smarter decisions. At the same time, they empower your team.
According to Salesforce, “79% of sales teams currently use or are planning to use sales analytics technology to increase efficiency.” This makes sense. Why spend so much time chasing down a lead if the numbers suggest they aren’t going to convert? And for sales leaders, isn’t it valuable to know which members of your team perform best within, say, the manufacturing industry? All great stuff.
I see something more in this stat, however — a hint of open-book management. Open-book management generally refers to leadership making key financials available to the entire company. This radical transparency is meant to empower employees by treating them more like partners.
But really, any time you ask your team to examine analytics — not just revenue and expenses — you’re inviting them to take more ownership of their work. If you just wanted them to do what you said, you’d just tell them what to do, right? Instead, you’re challenging them to think critically and make their own strategic decisions.
When somebody feels empowered at work, they’re far more likely to feel engaged. And engagement is one key to a great company culture.
Efficient processes lead to happier customers. And happier customers make for happier employees.
Process improvement usually comes down to the customer, right? If your business isn’t customer centric, it isn’t going to succeed. You want to figure out the best way to serve the people who ultimately pay your salary.
Of course, happier customers also make for happier employees — and not only because the customers are also paying their salaries.
No, it has to do with pride. When customers are happy, employees know that they’re doing their jobs well — that leads to pride. And, as a recent study confirms, pride is a key driver of employee happiness.
Beyond that, happy customers have fewer issues that need solving, saving your team tons of time and stress.
Good processes help set clear expectations. Clear expectations help boost engagement.
For many of us, expectations provide a necessary measuring stick. They help us see whether we’re doing quality work, enough work, the right work, etc. Without them, we might be quick to doubt ourselves and develop insecurities.
Unfortunately, only half of employees strongly agree that they know what’s expected of them at work.
This statistic likely sheds a light a number of problems (including the need for more effective management practices), but it also makes me think that a push for better processes could help. Think about it: an efficient process is well defined and repeatable. It tells people what to do. Quite literally, it’s a set of expectations.
As you set out to build efficiencies in your own organization, take stock of your current problems. Are you actually lacking a clear process, or the tools to make it work? Do you have your own version of “The Sheet”? If you aren’t sure, it might be time to reach out to a consulting firm for some help.